Features

Living with… paranoid schizophrenia

Clare Wood describes her struggle with paranoid schizophrenia and encourages mental health nurses to be positive, encourage hope, show empathy and understand that recovery is unique for each service user
Picture of Clare Wood with her carer, Sandy. She describes her struggle with paranoid schizophrenia and appeals nurses to encourage hope, show empathy and understand that recovery is unique for each service user.

Clare Wood describes her struggle with paranoid schizophrenia and encourages mental health nurses to be positive, encourage hope, show empathy and understand that recovery is unique for each person

This article is about my experiences of living with paranoid schizophrenia. In writing it I had two aims: to educate mental health nurses about my own personal experiences of recovery, and to help myself.

Writing this has been a creative and therapeutic activity. I also believe that if people read this article and improvements to mental health practice are made, then I am making a valuable contribution to society.

Three most common symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia

My symptoms are as follows: hearing voices, paranoid thinking, depression, agitation, anxiety, lack of concentration, lack of motivation and social isolation.

The three most common symptoms are:

...

Clare Wood describes her struggle with paranoid schizophrenia and encourages mental health nurses to be positive, encourage hope, show empathy and understand that recovery is unique for each person

Picture of Clare Wood with her carer, Sandy. She describes her struggle with paranoid schizophrenia and appeals nurses to encourage hope, show empathy and understand that recovery is unique for each service user.
Clare Wood (right) with her carer, Sandy

This article is about my experiences of living with paranoid schizophrenia. In writing it I had two aims: to educate mental health nurses about my own personal experiences of recovery, and to help myself.

Writing this has been a creative and therapeutic activity. I also believe that if people read this article and improvements to mental health practice are made, then I am making a valuable contribution to society.

Three most common symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia

My symptoms are as follows: hearing voices, paranoid thinking, depression, agitation, anxiety, lack of concentration, lack of motivation and social isolation.

The three most common symptoms are:

  1. Low mood/anxiety. I am unable to travel by bus as I hear too many voices and experience anxiety/agitation. I use taxis to go shopping at the supermarket. In the past I was given electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) to treat my intractable depression.
  2. Hearing nasty voices. I hear a running commentary of what I am doing. I also experience voices arguing with one another. My voices criticise me and are both male and female. I do my best to ignore them. Some voices are simple derogatory statements, for example, ‘Stupid bitch!’ or ‘Cow!’. I cannot envisage my life without hearing voices. However, I have learned to manage my voices well.
  3. Agitation. About four years ago I was prescribed the drug flupentixol (Depixol). This injection made me so agitated that I could not sit down – I was in agony. I had to lie in bed all day. Today the agitation is much less, but when I sit on the sofa in my living room I must have a blanket or duvet over my body.

My treatment

The medication I take today, and have been taking for the past four or five years, is as follows:

  • Sertraline, an antidepressant, 100mg tablet once a day.
  • Sodium valproate, a mood stabilizer, 500mg tablet twice a day.
  • Aripiprazole, to help stop nasty voices, 15mg tablet once a day.
  • Lorazepam, for anxiety, 1mg tablet twice a day.
  • Propranolol, for agitation, 10mg tablet twice a day.
  • Trihexyphenidyl, for agitation, a side effect, 2mg tablet twice a day.
  • Flupentixol, to help stop nasty voices, 60mg injection every two weeks.

My psychiatric history

In 1997 I completed a degree in health studies and was awarded a 2:2 classification.

I had hopes of becoming a lecturer in health studies at a university or college. However, in 1999 I became socially isolated and believed that someone was out to murder me. I left my house and went missing for four days and four nights, ending up in a psychiatric hospital.

I developed an anger problem, with several psychotic attacks resulting in a number of admissions. I thought that I was pregnant and I was angry at people for not believing me. I shouted and screamed verbal abuse at my neighbours, the police and shop assistants.

I was put on the drug quetiapine. I made a recovery, but still had an anger problem. I went swimming three times a week to release my tensions and anger. I became extremely fit and looked beautiful.

I heard about the mental health charity Viewpoint and became a trainer. I gave talks to professionals about my own personal experiences of mental distress. My goal was to get a job as a service user lecturer in mental health at the local university.

However, I still had my anger problem and a belief that I was pregnant.

I was treated by a new consultant psychiatrist who took me off quetiapine and prescribed flupentixol injections and sodium valproate.

Learning to live with paranoid schizophrenia

I take my prescribed medication religiously and never miss a dose.

I hide with the quilt over me for long periods of time. This seems to control most of my voices.

I have my carer, Sandy, visiting me at home on four afternoons a week. Sandy always asks me how my voices have been. After talking to her, my load is lightened and I feel more in control of my voices.

I have a friend who takes me in her car to the clinic where I am given my fortnightly injection. This friend also drives me to visit my 93-year-old mother.

'I have not been psychotic for most of the past four or five years'

I have recently made a friend from my church. We have tea and biscuits then pray together.

I seem to be coping very well with my illness at present. This is because I have a social support system in the community, effective medication and the ability to write this article. Writing this article is making me very happy.

Paranoid schizophrenia has been a long illness requiring medication. I have had a diagnosis since 2006.

I have now been living in the community for five years. I no longer have an anger problem and I have not been psychotic for most of the past four or five years.

What is recovery to me?

I have survived my paranoid schizophrenia/severe mental illness (I am aged 62).

I am free of many of my symptoms some days of the week.

I live in my flat in the community.

I have a reasonable quality of life, with the help of appropriate medication, psychiatric support, carer support and being with friends.

I have also been successful in my writing. In 2018, I had a booklet I Can Do Ten Things to Alleviate My Depression and Low Mood published by Chipmunka Publishing. Writing this booklet alleviated my depression, low mood, agitation and hearing nasty voices, as well as improving my quality of life.

Summing up: what I hope for from sharing my recovery journey

Nurses need to try to be positive about recovery and encourage positivity, hope and optimism for their clients. They also need to show empathy at all times – this was not always the case, especially when I was at my most unwell.

Recovery is unique for each service user and may not reflect my own personal experiences of recovery.

I hope that by sharing my recovery journey I can assist mental health nurses and patients, and offer hope that full or partial recovery from paranoid schizophrenia is possible.


Find out more

I Can Do Ten Things to Alleviate My Depression and Low Mood


Related articles

Want to read more?

Subscribe for unlimited access

Enjoy 1 month's access for £1 and get:

  • Full access to mentalhealthpractice.com
  • Bi-monthly digital edition
  • RCNi Portfolio and interactive CPD quizzes
  • RCNi Learning with 200+ evidence-based modules
  • 10 articles a month from any other RCNi journal

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this?

Jobs